Anna at War by Helen Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a little concerned at the start of Anna At War because I have a loathing of introductions. We are familiar enough with war-fiction; it’s no new topic for children’s literature, and Peters’ writing is so deliciously solid and fabulously readable that it does not need this. It really doesn’t.
I also need to let you know that I only get picky like this when the book is good.
Anna At War is a very good book. Admittedly, it takes a while to find its feet, but once it does we’re away. The story bowls along; Anna’s fabulous, the situation she’s in is horrible, but she’s a fighter. Strong. Powerful. Brave. Braver than I’d ever be under the circumstances. And the final few scenes of the book made me cry. Excellent. That’s all I want. Peters is a treat, and this story is just really well done.
But oh, that introduction. It just holds the story back and, in a way, tells you a little bit too much about what’s to happen. And I don’t want you to think that it’s a bad introduction, because it isn’t. Peters writes with care, kindness and truth throughout her work – but this introduction is an endnote. It’s context, a reminder of the truth that lies behind these horrors, and a warning to never let them happen again.
I know I’ve banged on about the introduction a lot, so here’s the part where I reinforce how good the rest of it is. Anna is a lovely heroine, and Anna At War is reminiscent of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Carrie’s War. It’s also interesting in how it touches on some very big issues such as spy fever and the fear of imminent invasion. As a whole these are done with a gentle bigness. Does that make sense? I’m not sure it does, but Peters can do it. She can talk about these big issues, and make them relevant. Small. Accessible. The big fears of the world expressed in a school playground.
Like I said, the good books make me picky.
My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.
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